The past two weeks have been funky. School started off strong and I’m still so happy to be back in the Intensive Care Unit. After a few weeks though, that happy high I was on settled down and I was left feeling overwhelmed and stretched pretty thin with new work responsibilities and coursework. To make things more difficult, I took care of a patient suffering from very intense PTSD and the next day my FNP seminar discussed mental health issues and mental trauma. Slightly triggering for me.
I still struggle with regulating my emotions and I often find that when I reach a truly happy point, I’ll occasionally fall off the bandwagon and my mood will spiral downwards. It’s a trend that has gotten better over the years through my recovery from depression but its something that I know I’ll always have to manage during my lifetime. Yes, I am generally a happy person now but I still feel things differently than most people who haven’t struggled with depression. I tend to shut down more quickly and I get absorbed into my thoughts much more easily. This can lead me down a dangerous path in terms of negative thinking.
About two weeks ago, I noticed a few of my old symptoms creeping back up (mainly, a loss of appetite and insomnia as well as a poor mood and inability to concentrate) and I pretty much just shut down. I couldn’t concentrate or enjoy time with any of my friends and I started to become hyper vigilant in my thinking, obsessing over little things and not trusting my intuition. I knew that I was on the verge of a relapse which frightened me and so I called three different therapists with no luck. Literally two weeks later and one of them still hasn’t even called me back. The other two I didn’t qualify for because of my insurance.
It’s so upsetting that mental health providers are in such short supply that I can’t even be proactive in taking care of myself, especially when it’s so hard to admit to myself that I need to see someone. Luckily, I’ve been working on things myself using the techniques I’ve learned in therapy and I have been forcing myself to stay moving. I took a day off last week to drive up to skyline drive and study at one of the overlooks and yesterday I just took a day away from school and watched football with some friends from work.
Things are looking up but I’m still in that uncomfortable worrying phase. I feel myself stretching from this process though and I have no doubts that in a few weeks I’ll be back to my happier state of mind. Right now, I’m just taking each day at a time and remembering that I can make it through anything because the worst is already years behind me.
Last weekend was absolutely beautiful. I’m so happy that warm weather and sunshine have finally showed up around here. Since this week was Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, Charlottesville celebrated its annual Tom Tom festival. Friday, I spent the evening hanging out with my brother and sister-in-law chasing my niece around Lee Park. There was live music and of course local brews.
On Saturday, I woke up early and snuck in a quick workout at 9Round before hitting up the Farmer’s Market with a few of my old coworkers. I had to work at the vineyard at one so I said goodbye to them and headed out of town to work for a few hours. I could get used to this late afternoon shift, it gave me enough time to enjoy my whole Saturday while also making some money. I brought home a box of wine to share with my parents and my father started a fire in the backyard for us to sit around. I also snuck in a s’mores because we had the supplies and what’s a fire without marshmallows?
I’ve been watching High Carb Hannah on YouTube and she’s started a cycling challenge for herself. I’ve always wanted to get into bicycling since its so popular around here but I find myself making excuses all the time. My mother happens to have a very nice bike that she rarely uses and since we’re the same size, I asked to borrow it. On Sunday morning I woke up early again to get a ride in since I really didn’t want to be anywhere near cars and I figured there wouldn’t be too many people on the road. I biked to a local park and got a lot of practice in on some pretty mild (for Charlottesville at least) hills. I started to get bored doing the same thing over and over so when I was confident enough, I headed back onto the street to Cville Coffee. I stopped for about half an hour and had a cappacino before finally heading home. When I checked the time, I realized I had been gone for two hours and discovered I had gone over 9 miles. Not bad for my first workout.
I spent the rest of the day running errands and snuck in a quick trip to Costco to load up on some much needed produce. I bought a HUGE container of oranges and lemons as well as a bag of kale and made some green juice. I can’t believe how easy and cheap it was compared to buying a fresh juice from the store. I will definitely be doing that more often.
Now that I’ve truly committed to the Plant Based Journey, I feel like I should update on the physical changes I’ve experienced. I don’t have a crazy weight loss story or dramatic loss in inches from my body but I have experienced enough of a benefit that I can honestly say there’s no turning back now.
Getting personal with things, it’s been three cycles since I’ve started to change my diet and I’ve already noticed an improvement in many things. I came off hormonal birth control last May and switched over to the copper IUD. I will say, things got kinda wonky there for a bit. Between having cramps for the first time in years and having some of the heaviest periods imaginable I almost went back to my GYN to have it removed. I knew the first few cycles would be rough but I was persistent in waiting out the symptoms to see if things balanced out (I also just dreaded getting it out since it hurt putting it in). It took until December for me to get any kind of relief (conveniently around the time I started to completely revamp my diet….). Last month, I noticed my cycle was shorter, less heavy, and I only cramped for one day instead of three days like I had become accustomed to.
I also became used to breaking out the week before my period started. It was how I new my cycle was about to start but this month, I didn’t even get a blemish! In fact, my skin got even clearer the week before my period showed up and a friend of mine even commented on how great my skin looked (without makeup). I have the type of acne that forms painful cysts and scars for months on end. While I still have a few blemishes, my skin is very smooth and there haven’t been any new demons popping up (I hope I didn’t just jinx myself).
I also noticed that my energy levels are improving. The last few months before I started to eliminate animal products from my diet I would get exhausted on my period. It had gotten to a point where I was ready to call in sick from work. I’m not sure if I was anemic since I never actually went to the doctor to get my blood checked but I can say that last month my energy levels were so much better and I was at least able to make it through each day. This month, I was even able to do some light exercise the first few days and I was able to get in about 4 miles of walking on the worst day.
Speaking of healthy eating to help with menstruation, Dr. Greger posted this video last week on Fennel Seeds and ginger for menstrual cramps and PMS. I know its anecdotal but I have been incorporating ginger into my diet more…
Finally, and most importantly to me, my mood has dramatically increased over the last two months. I’ve written about my struggle with depression on this blog before and I’ve always been proud of myself for being able to manage things with mental exercises. I never really put a link to diet and my mood but I have noticed things being a lot better. I know my mood will always fluctuate to some degree and there were obviously precipitating factors to my depressive episodes in the past but anything I can do to keep myself in a healthy state is worth it to me.
You guys. I have something amazing to share with you.
I’ve been incorporating more potatoes into my diet recently thanks to my favorite youtube vlogger High Carb Hannah. She’s doing a 30 day potato cleanse eating nothing but potato recipes and non starchy vegetables. While I haven’t gone completely potato based, I have been inspired to eat more spuds lately. I’ve been eating a lot of oven baked fries with dipping sauces and tonight I made this insane cheese-y deliciousness.
There are a few recipes out there but I made mine based off of what I had on hand in my kitchen. I’m pretty excited about the results. So excited in fact, that I used an oven baked potato fry to wipe my Vitamix when I was done. And since my sauce is all veggies and no fat, I didn’t even bat an eyelash. In fact, I sat down for more.
Nacho “Cheez” Sauce:
3 chopped potatoes-I used 2 red potatoes and 1 gold potato
3/4 yellow onion diced
3 large carrots chopped
1 cup chopped sweet peppers
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon garlic
1 tablespoon chives
dash of cayenne pepper
sprinkle of salt (I added mine after I portioned it out so I could use less)
Boil all of the veggies in water. Place nutritional yeast and spices into Vitamix then add boiled veggies and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, you can add some of the potato water to thin it out. Add cayenne and salt to taste.
Voila! Perfect, delicious sauce made before you have time to bake a potato. Obviously, this sauce does not have the same taste of cheese but if you’ve been plant based for more than a few weeks (or just never really liked processed cheese) you’ll go nuts over this stuff. I made enough to fill two mason jars full!
I’ve already decided that tomorrow I’ll be having a loaded baked potato with this stuff all over it topped with salsa. Is it bad that I’m drooling for tomorrow’s dinner already?
I got home from work Tuesday to find my refrigerator completely warm. I noticed the night before that our freezer temperature wasn’t quite right and submitted a maintenance request to my landlord immediately. By the time I got home from work the next day, there was a temporary fridge waiting but everything in the freezer was completely room temperature. Yuck. Luckily, I only had some frozen produce and quinoa as well as a few baguettes leftover from last week’s Wineworks customer appreciation event (perks of the job, free baguettes and wine after every event).
I salvaged the bread and we’ll see about the frozen fruit and veggies. I’m thinking they may refreeze well enough for smoothies but I’ll have to test out a batch and see. Anything leafy green went right in the trash (including an unopened bag of asparagus from Costco that I was really looking forward to eating). As far as my fridge went, I was able to save everything! One of the perks of eating a plant based diet-fresh produce won’t go rancid in a few hours. Unfortunately for my roommate, we had to throw out most of her food as it was in contact with meat and definitely not worth risking getting sick over.
The one good thing that has come out of this though, is that I can completely reset the food I have at home! I threw out some of my less healthy options in the process of cleaning and have made it my mission to only stock healthy plant based foods in my kitchen going forward. I also managed to free up a lot of room in our fridge and am going to try my best to eat more minimally going forward. There’s no reason to have heaps of food in the fridge waiting to go bad.
Last weekend was jam packed full of activities for me. After spending all of New Year’s day relaxing, I met my parents at the movies to watch Concussion. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. As someone who works in neurosurgery, is a huge football fan, and has suffered more than one concussion in my life, I found it especially thought provoking.
On Saturday, I traveled to Fredericksburg to visit my best friend Audrey. She lives in Maryland so Fredericksburg is a good “half way” meeting place for the two of us (although, I have to admit I have a much better end of the bargain. My drive is filled with beautiful horse farms whereas she’s normally battling traffic on I-95). We met at 25 30 Espresso which was a really cute coffee shop I had never been to. I thought it was funny that Audrey had found this local shop I’d never heard of. I spent almost 16 years of my life there, how could she know downtown better than me? After catching up over breakfast, we wandered the streets and browsed the stores for a few hours before saying goodbye.
On Sunday, two of my good friends and I headed to Skyline drive to ring in the new year with a fabulous hike.
We live in the most beautiful place
Berkley and I stopping for a photo opportunity by a small waterfall
What a cute couple!
We couldn’t find a good spot to cross, so she crawled across. Shortly after, Markus and I found a suitable spot to cross by land.
We ended up doing 9.8 miles in 4 hours and 20 minutes (and that included stopping for lunch and photo-ops)! I haven’t been able to motivate myself to workout since then but that’s also probably related to the fact that winter finally showed up around here on Monday. Yesterday, I walked to work in 18 degree weather! I know its January and should be expected but just two days ago it was in the 50’s on top of a mountain!
I hope everyone is finding ways to stay warm this week! I found solitude in developing a new recipe which I’ll post later this week.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2016 is finally here and I can’t wait to see what it brings. I love this time of year and this holiday is one of my favorites. I think its so important to challenge yourself and to always aim for improvement. It’s something we should be doing year round, not just in January.
I’m pretty sure that I’ve made the same resolution every single year (lose 10-15 pounds). BORING (also, I actually did it this year). This year however, I’m changing my tactics. My resolutions are more about filling myself up than deprivation.
In 2016 I plan to:
- Treat my body with kindness and loving words. This body is mine and I’m definitely my biggest critic. I don’t trust most compliments I receive simply because I don’t compliment myself enough. So this year will be about changing that. I plan to work on speaking kindly to myself daily and accepting genuine compliments that come my way.
- Go to 5 new places this year. I’ve always love traveling to new places and experiencing new cultures. I’m not very well traveled though and I want to change that. That begins with my trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe in TWO MONTHS. We’ll see what other stops I add to fulfill this goal as the year goes on.
- Step out of my comfort zone. Be it through starting conversations with strangers or just staying busy during the work week, I want to stretch myself this year.
I plan to come up with monthly goals that will help me stay on track throughout the year and I’ll try to update them here to keep me motivated.